Text Box: Nicholas Rice
Extreme High Altitude Athlete
Text Box: Xpedition 8000

2008 K2 and Broad Peak Expedition

Dispatch Sixty-five: August 3rd, 2008

Day Sixty-five: SUMMIT PUSH– The Aftermath; Wilco Helped Down

Today, after my first decent night’s sleep in over a week, I woke up and went down to have breakfast with the last team member remaining in my base camp, Peter. He is however, heading down today, and I will have to complete my stay in base camp alone, left with the grim task of packing my climbing partners’ and friends’ belongings and informing their embassy’s and families of their grim fate. Today, Wilco is being helped down the Cesan Route by Pemba; Wilco has severely frostbitten feet after spending over 5 nights above 8000 meters. Cas, who down climbed the bottleneck, and the Italian, Marco, who was rescued by Pemba after being discovered laying in the snow, with gloves off, harness half off, and unconscious are also heading down. Base camp is quite somber thanks to the enormous loss of life in such a short amount of time. The American Doctor, Eric, and a few others are working on the heli-pad and making a triage tent in preparation for the receival of the severely frostbitten climbers. As their limbs begin to thaw out, they will experience tremendous pain, and will need some very potent pain management. We are all thankful that the weather seems to be holding so that the helicopters can come. Without perfect weather, they won’t even make an attempt to come up here. Today is the final day that I can rationally hold on to the thread of hope that Hugues is somehow still alive. The summit is being thrashed by hurricane force winds this afternoon, and the possibility of life continuing on in those conditions defies logic (three nights above 8,200 meters alone is almost always deadly). I hope to get some closure from Pemba, who may have actually witnessed the missing climbers’ fate first hand. At this point, I am quite resentful of the people who have decided to give up hope and raise the “confirmed” death toll to include the still missing climbers. If Wilco and Pemba could find a way to come down from their epic struggle high on K2, what’s to say that there can’t be more survivors. Although hope fades with every hour, I refuse to lose my optimism until I have a good concrete reason to abandon it. Around 10:00pm, Wilco, Cas, and Pemba finally arrived down the route, which a number of Dutch had gone up to fix all the way to the bottom, as the route had deteriorated; compact snow was replaced by swift-moving water and rocks. The trio made it to base camp, albeit slowly, and we were more than ready to receive Wilco and Cas and tend to their injuries. Tonight will surely be yet another test of their courage, as their limbs are thawed, and the extent of their injuries is revealed. Marco continues to move slowly down the Abruzzi Spur, but his High Altitude Cerebral Edema appears to be getting better as he descends, as he is more coherent over the radio.


In Photos:

Left: Hugues in Camp III

Right: Karim ascending towards Camp III on the Cesan Route